It was #NewsCorpse that hounded BLeak to death, not “teh Left”

March 22, 2017

The mourning clowns at NewsCorpse have made a habit of ridiculing Earth Hour in their columns and editorials, and it’s no surprise that Chris Kenny often leads the charge. If you follow @chriskkenny on Twitter you will know that he is an erudite and learned fellow when it comes to the vexing questions of climate science, the economics of renewables and what causes power outages in his hometown of Adelaide.

Kenny is a seasoned campaigner in the “culture wars”. His worldview is predicated on the crazy belief that every major public institution in Australia, apart from NewsCorpse itself, has been captured by raving Leftists with an anti-business, pro-human rights, green, queer agenda.

Laughable as this proposition is to sane people who see the world as it really is, it is the motivating force – the lifeblood – of Murdoch’s motivated scribblers and calumnists.

It is therefore not really surprising that, to a man and a woman, NewsCorpse employees lined up this past week to eulogise the cartoonist Bill Leak and to condemn anyone who dared utter a disparaging word about him.

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The day free speech died to protect Colonel Blimp

April 26, 2015

So this ANZAC weekend, what did you do?

dardenellesDid you go down to your local war memorial and fondly remember great-grandfathers, grandmothers and other relatives who died in a senseless slaughter 100 years ago?

Did you march proudly, wearing the medals of your ancestors, because these brave men and women are the only reason we are free today?

Did you, like I did, try to shield yourself from the nationalistic pomp and the idiotic rantings of our Prime Minister?

Did you cringe at the jingoism, the unthinking patriotism and crass commercialism that now defines ANZAC day?

Or did you, like the free speech fundamentalists and Abbott apologists, take time from your orgy of bloody celebration of war, to call for a young journalist to be sacked for daring to question the ANZAC myth?

Yes, unfortunately the dogwhistling from the feral NewsCorpse bunker caused SBS management to buckle and sack Scott McIntyre within 24 hours. There was no due process, no inquiry, no chance for Scott to defend himself.

But what exactly was McIntyre’s offence?

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Statement on Charlie Hebdo

January 10, 2015

It is always sad to witness the murder of journalists. Killing the messenger is never a solution if you don’t like the message.

The murder of 10 Charlie Hebdo journalists and cartoonists by Islamic extremists was a violent hate crime with no justification.

The perpetrators of this outrage seek to clothe themselves in the garb of Islam and claimed to carry out the murders in the cause of defending the Prophet.

They failed in that aim.

Instead, all that the murderers have achieved is to strengthen the resolve of Western powers to prosecute their own war on the people of Aghanistan, Syria and Iraq.

Intensifying the US-led bombing raids (in which Australia is a willing participant) against Da’esh or pouring more Western military aid into the hands of illegitimate governments in Yemen and the Arabian peninsula, will not reduce the threat of further attacks like that against the French satirical magazine.

Only three things are certain as a result of the Charlie Hebdo incident:

1. Western governments will use it as an excuse to continue prosecuting the so-called “War on Terror”, which, by all reasonable accounts is an abject failure and the major cause of increased terrorist attacks inside Western nations

2. Despite all the moralistic outrage gushing from the pages of Western newspapers and dripping from the lips of Western politicians our freedom of speech, our freedom of assembly and our freedom of thought will be further curtailed by the so-called guardians of liberty.

3. The hypocrisy of those in the West now calling for the re-publication of some of Charlie Hebdo’s more racist and vilifying cartoon front pages will know no boundaries; but they will pretend it doesn’t exist.

Charlie Hebdo was no saint. But satire alone is not a defence for racism and misogyny

Charlie Hebdo was no saint. But satire alone is not a defence for racism and misogyny

I will attempt to explain these three points quickly and then link to some of the better commentary on the issue.

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Delusional free speech fundamentalists all on the same [racist] page

March 30, 2014

There are two certainties about the Weekend Australian that make a weekly reading of it a tiresome duty.

1. The newspaper propaganda sheet is tireless and relentless in pursuit of the shibboleths that occupy the increasingly erratic thoughts of Chairman Murdoch

2. The pervasive groupthink emanating from the  News Limited bunkers like the smell of a slow death, displays a remarkably consistent level of paranoia, delusion and editorial agreement among the chief journalists and writers propagandists.

Nowhere are these certainties more likely to reveal themselves than in the fevered attention the editor and his minions are throwing at the supposed attack on free speech posed by Section 18C and 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act. News Limited’s considerable, yet unprofitable editorial resources are being lavished on support for George “right to be a bigot” Brandis in his campaign to make it OK to be a racist in 21st century Australia.

In The Weekend Australian 29-30 March 2014 there are no less than six pieces supporting the campaign to have the ‘Bolt’ amendment passed in Parliament.

That alone is an indictment of their bleating claims that debate is being shut down and that 18C has a chilling effect on free speech. These dribblejaws are able to prosecute their case freely and at great length with the support of an editorial and acres of newsprint.

The only issue I have is that it is not a debate as such in the pages of the Weekend Australian. It is all one way traffic, it is propaganda without answer. Perhaps it is wishful thinking to argue that a newspaper that claims to take freedom of speech and debate so seriously would allow an oppositional voice. But hey, it is the party news organ of the coalition, so I won’t be so fucking stupid. How about you?

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Down the memory hole part 1: Repeat a lie long enough someone will believe it

July 25, 2012

The Armstrong Delusion

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed because they’ve been quite subtle, but whoever writes editorials for The Australian doesn’t like the idea that there should be some responsibility and accountability in the news media — particularly when it comes to News Limited papers.

I have collected more than a dozen editorials from The Australian that relate to media regulation, the Finkelstein and Convergence Review recommendations and the war on free speech that is currently crushing the news media. I have a pile of op-ed pieces 20 centimetres high and I’m slowly piecing together the story of the memory hole and the big lie.

It is impossible to include everything in one post because it is necessary to constantly check the facts. Big lies work through repetition and by relying on the assumption that no one will check the history and correct the record.

But I am working on a book about journalism ethics at the moment and a second one on freedom of speech so this is a research exercise. I am happy to share as I go along.

The memory hole is the device used in Orwell’s 1984. Winston Smith is obliged to correct (redact and edit) editions of The Times on behalf of the Inner Party. Whenever he corrects a piece of copy — usually because of some previous lie that now needs to be altered — the old story and all his working notes are sent to a furnace in the vast apparatus of the state. The offending materials are dispatched down the memory hole.

In the walls of the cubicle there were three orifices. To the right of the speakwrite, a small pneumatic tube for written messages, to the left, a larger one for newspapers; and in the side wall, within easy reach of Winston’s arm, a large oblong slit protected by a wire grating. This last was for the disposal of waste paper. Similar slits existed in thousands or tens of thousands throughout the building, not only in every room but at short intervals in every corridor. For some reason they were nicknamed memory holes. When one knew that any document was due for destruction, or even when one saw a scrap of waste paper lying about, it was an automatic action to lift the flap of the nearest memory hole and drop it in, whereupon it would be whirled away on a current of warm air to the enormous furnaces which were hidden somewhere in the recesses of the building.

George Orwell, 1984

The Australian and its free speech absolutist supporters are relying on the memory hole to erase any idea that there might be some value in media accountability and light touch regulation.

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The beginning of the end for the Press Council?

December 10, 2011

Some interesting news this week of a new organisation set up to represent newspaper publishers.

THE country’s four major newspaper publishers have formed a new venture, the Newspaper Works, to give the industry a united voice on a range of issues from environmental sustainability to collecting readership data.

Under the new banner, the publishers at Fairfax Media, News Ltd, Seven West Media and APN News & Media have the scope to discuss, comment and set collective policies to make the sector more efficient for advertisers and readers.

I can’t help but wonder if this is not a precursor to something else – the break-up, or perhaps the assassination – of the Australian Press Council.

In the past few weeks the Finkelstein inquiry has been getting an ear-bashing from old-school newspaper types objecting to the kite-flying proposal to give the Press Council more teeth and some government funding.
All along Ray Finkelstein has been raising this possibility as a solution to the vexed question of how to enforce greater accountability for errors and egregious attacks while maintaining the cloak of respectability (invisibility?) that comes with the pretence of full ‘independence’.

In Perth a few days ago, this hefty swing from West Australian Newspapers group editor-in-chief Bob Cronin smashed the government support delivery out of the ground:

“My concern is that in recent times, rather than dealing harshly with egregious errors, the council has become a cudgel with which zealots, bigots, academics and despotic politicians are able to beat newspapers which dare to depart from their view of the world.”
My colleague Professor Mark Pearson of Bond University and one of Australia’s leading media law academics also poured cold water on the Finkelstein idea. It seems, at least from this report, that they had a fairly terse exchange of views.

ANY attempt to force a newspaper to publish a judgment from a government-funded body would send a message that the Australian government does not believe in freedom of the press, a leading media law researcher has warned. Mark Pearson, professor of journalism at Bond University and the Australian correspondent for Reporters Sans Frontieres, was speaking at the final day of public hearings for the government’s media inquiry.

Chairman and former Federal Court judge Ray Finkelstein QC asked Professor Pearson what he thought of the notion of a levy-funded regulatory body with the power to order newspapers to publish Press Council-style judgments.

“Two out of three of the major members of the Press Council have told me they will refuse to provide any more funding,” Mr Finkelstein said. “So what do I do?”

But in a robust exchange of views Professor Pearson argued that any such body would be

viewed as an instrument of government regulation and would be at odds with any editor’s view of their role. “The notion of the fourth estate is a residual idea, it is much more than a commercial ethic. It is part of an editor’s sense of fierce independence from a government-funded body.”

Mr Finkelstein argued with Professor Pearson that a levy-funded body could be different.

“It is still a government institution,” Professor Pearson replied and said no editor or publisher would support it.

“Without freedom of expression embodied in a constitution or bill of rights, it would send a message to the international community that the Australian government wants to force its will on media organisations.”

Professor Pearson said he questioned any need for a new regulatory body when the Press Council did its job “reasonably well” and that all it lacked was community education of its process.

He also questioned the cost of the inquiry, estimating it as more than $1 million.

“So what, so what?” Mr Finkelstein said, glaring at him.

“I don’t object to government funding, but I do object to the regulatory regime,” Professor Pearson said.

Earlier, Mr Finkelstein had remarked that he was starting to understand the way editors thought: “Judges don’t like being told what to do and I have the feeling editors are like judges.”

The inquiry was also told publishers could benefit from the advice of an “integrity”authority.

[Nick Leys – The  Australian – 9 December]

I don’t agree with all of Pearson’s remarks, but in general he’s right – publishers have given a strong signal that they don’t like the idea of government ‘interference’ in their self-regulation (mutual stroking) regime.

But Mark is mistaken in his view about the links between ‘freedom of expression’ in a bill of rights type instrument and the freedom of the press being threatened by government ‘forcing its will’ on media organisations.

This idea is based on a flawed – but widely held view – that individual humans and giant media corporations are the same thing in the eyes of the law and that they have the same ‘rights’. I say this is bullshit.

Giant media corporations are legal entities (firms or companies) established for the benefit of shareholders. Their whole reason for being is to make money – profits – and to distribute this to shareholders.

Why should something – the media company in this case – which is founded on the principle of private profit be extended what is fundamentally a human right – the right of free expression.

What the legal fiction of equality before the law does in this instance is give licence to the private ownership of this right to speech.

The ‘right’ to freedom of expression should not reside with the media company; it actually belongs to the people and, as our political representatives – working to the public interest – governments technically and morally have a right to intercede on our behalf to ensure that corporations act in the public interest.

This is not going to happen, the force of the (broken) market will ensure that capital is free to exploit and expropriate and also to continue speaking with forked tongue on freedom of speech.

I am working on a major research piece that will elucidate my arguments more clearly. That will be available early in the new year.

Season’s greetings

This is my last post for 2011. I am having yet another round of hand surgery on Tuesday next – the dreaded ‘Viking disease‘ – and will be in a cast for three weeks.

I hope you have a safe and fun silly season where ever you are in the world. As a level 7 aetheist I offer a secular greeting – “cheers”.


Free speech, vilification and the Herald Sun editorial

September 30, 2011

The Herald Sun editorial defending Andrew Bolt against Federal Court ruling that he breached provisions of the Racial Discrimination Act argues that the offending columns were justified.

In the second paragraph the editorial “maintains” the view that:

What Bolt wrote in this newspaper and online was not based on race, but on the way race was used by those who took such offence. (‘Free speech vital to society’  12011)

This is a semantic point that twists the argument to suggest that the actions of those who claimed to be offended, insulted, intimidated and humiliated by Bolt’s comments are themselves racist.

In the fifth par the editorial insists the paper was right to publish Bolt’s comments:

We say [publication] was [justifiable] and if it is the interpretation of he law that comes into question, then it is the law that should be changed.

This is a key turning point in the argument, which sets up the HWT defence that the unfettered principle of free speech must trump a law, which attempts to curtail it.

The following paragraph makes a stab at defining free speech in this context:

A key measure of a mature society is the ability to publicly discuss unpopular views without fear, no matter how distasteful they are to some of us, and to follow this discussion with vigorous public debate.

But this case was not about tasteful or distasteful comments. It was about the deliberate denigration and traducing of nine individuals based only on their ethnic identity.  The HWT justification on this point seems to imply that anything goes in the freedom of speech stakes. This takes no account of the public benefit and public interest in having a legal means to curtail hateful, hurtful and inflammatory propaganda. Any society that wants to call itself democratic and civilized will have legislative and legal provisions preventing racist speech. There is no right to freedom of speech that involves racial or other defamation based on stereotyping, misconceptions, deliberately deceptive arguments. There is no right to free speech if the aim of that speech is to encourage others to action – even if that action (at this point) is merely an invitation to share such views.

On this point the Herald Sun editorial spins itself a very tight web, but unfortunately it appears caught in the clever strands of its own faulty logic:

This has very much been a trial of freedom of speech [sic]. Those who complained had he opportunity to put forward their own views. They were offered equal space on these pages, but sought to silence Bolt on the subject of the social consequences of their choice to identify as Aboriginal. (‘Free speech vital to society’  12011)

I cannot, at this point, offer an opinion on whether or not the complainants were offered and refused a chance to respond in the paper. However, I can observe that this would not necessarily have been in the plaintiff’s best interests. The only possible outcome I could see would be to add fuel to the fire Bolt was attempting to ignite with an explosion of feigned moral outrage. If I had been advising the nine my recommendation would have been not to engage with Bolt in the pages of his own newspaper. Bolt has previous form in these matters and he would know that anything the accused put forward in their defence would be used to further inflame the mob rule atmosphere that demagogues thrive in.

But on the last line “the social consequences of their choice to identify as Aboriginal” I can surmise that the irony of this comment is lost on the editorialist. One of the social consequences the plaintiffs had to endure was the vilification and opprobrium heaped on them by Andrew Bolt in his offending columns and by his legion of ill-informed fans who lap up his diatribes.

 

, ‘Free speech vital to society’ 12011, Herald Sun, 29 September, Editorial.